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OpenFacto presents its latest report on a secretive FSB technical directorate and its affiliate directly linked with Navalny kill squad. This report can be downloaded here in English. Below we present the background at the origin of this report, our main findings and the methodology used.

DISCLAIMER – OpenFacto used open sources to reveal the other activities of the FSB unit allegedly involved in Alexey Navalny’s poisoning. There is no allegation vaccines approved by health authorities are part of a biological program.

Background – It all starts with an extensive work on Russian Ebola vaccine in Guinea

Following the latest Bellingcat’s article on Alexey Navalny Novichok Poisoning , Bellingcat and its partners uncovered data pointing to the existence of a clandestine chemical weapons program operated by members of Russia’s domestic intelligence services (FSB). The investigation reveals Navalny had for years been tailed by a team of operatives from a clandestine FSB unit referred to as FSB Criminalistics Institute, NII-2 (Research Institute – 2), or as Military Unit 34435. In Bellingcat’s article we learn that Kirill Vasilyev is Unit 34435 reporting directly to major-general Vladimir Bogdanov, former chief of the Criminalistics Institute and currently head of its parent entity, the FSB’s ‘Special Technology Center’ He is also deputy director of FSB’s powerful Scientific-Technical Service.

This center has another name OpenFacto and Youri van der Weide now affiliated with Bellingcat ran into some time ago on an investigation related to Ebola vaccines in Guinea by Emmanuel Freudhental : UNIT 68240. This unit appears to be the Russian equivalent of the American DARPA.

Main findings – A secretive intelligence FSB Technical Directorate linked to Navalny kill squad is researching and acquiring sensitive surveillance and cyber technologies and involved with Russian research centers specialized on rare and lethal diseases and biochemistry.

  • During the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Russia played an important rôle creating a new vaccine through an ecosystem of State research laboraty, including the 48th central research institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
  • The 48th Central Research Institute is specialized on rare and lethal pathogens like Marburg virus, MERS, anthrax or Ebola. It is a direct affiliate to the 33rd Central Research Institute, which developed novichok agents. Both institutes are now under US sanctions for likely conducting dedicated research for the Russian Biological Weapons Program.
  • Using freely available information from the Russian State Procurement Database, OpenFacto is able to link at the time the 48th Institute as a supplier of UNIT 68240, a secretive FSB military unit for a project code-named Toledo. The operational management of project Toledo has been delegated by UNIT 68240 to UNIT 34435. UNIT 34435 has been recently investigated by Bellingcat for its alleged role and involvement in Alexey Navalny’s poisoning.
  • Using open sources and based on a study of its procurement requests, OpenFacto is able to establish that UNIT 68240 is a technical niche R&D directorate with a broad research spectrum ranging from computer analytics, to ballistic, to biological/ chemical or electronics. UNIT 68240 supervizes at least three other units : UNIT 34435, UNIT 35533 and UNIT 44239.
  • Based on its procurement requests UNIT 34435 appears to have laboratory activities of various sorts. On a 2005 Executive Order, a formal collaboration is organized between UNIT 34435 with the 48th, 33rd and 27th Central Research Institutes specialized on rare and lethal pathogens. In addition to collaborating with the 48th Central Research Institute, it has links with the Institute for Problems of Chemical and Energy Technologies, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, focusing on defense related research (biochemistry, biology and high energy).
  • UNIT 35533 appears to be specialized on technical communications, wireless networks, signal processing technology. It is involved in a case of export control investigation led by the FBI for purchasing covertly sensitive microelectronics from the US. UNIT 35533 has also acquired, tested and implemented SORM equipment, the Russian surveillance technology. It is also in relation with a private Russian company allegedly supplying offensive cyber solutions to Russian State clients.
  • UNIT 44239 seems to be dedicated to robotics and explosion related research with the procurement of pyrotechnics and collaboration with the Siberian Scientific Institute mentioned beforehand.

Methodology – A bit of luck, a lot of open source research and a good grip of the Russian procurement system

  • Some members of OpenFacto worked extensively two years ago with journalist Emmanuel Freudhental on the Russian presence in Guinea during the ebola crisis and their effort to create a vaccine : at the publication of Bellingcat’s article a postal address we had seen before caught our eyes and reminded us of a strange project. We started from this point
  • For this investigation we rely exclusively on open-source material that anyone can find online. There is no access to external sources neither access to leaked databases. Information are linked together and verified as much as possible. The limit to this work is its lack of insider information to confirm or highlight what remains hidden. This work can only raise the interest of other professional investigators to dig further.
  • We have mainly researched corporate registry databases, procurement databases, scientific journals, patent databases, court documents and local news.
  • As its corporate registry, the Russian state procurement system is a very transparent and process oriented. All state entities procuring any type of services or goods are inputing their orders into a centralized system which is available for consultation and keep tracks of tenders. Sometimes financial contracts and communications between the buyer and suppliers are uploaded which offer additional information. Technical proposals are not available online. Out of this official website, commercial websites have emerged to offer tenders tracking and suppliers analytics based on the official state procurement website. All these databases remain cumbersome to manipulate and require some degree of Russian proficiency.
Official Russian procurement database
  • In 2017/18 the sensitive procurement linked to the Defense sector started to migrate in a centralized manner onto another platform. This platform has not been explored during the investigation as it requires special access and is assumed to be heavily monitored.
Defense related governmental procurement database